Sell Yourself

A personal body of knowledge details your skills and expertise

by Russell T. Westcott

Your personal body of knowledge (BoK) differs from your résumé. A résumé focuses more on your achievements—the situation you encountered, what you did about it and what results you obtained.

Your personal BoK focuses on what you know, the skills you have and the experience you’ve accumulated.

There are five reasons for creating your personal BoK:

1. It provides a data bank of items for crafting a résumé. Customized résumés are almost mandated for a successful job-seeking campaign. Crafting multiple résumés to fit varying types of jobs openings and a hiring company’s specific needs can be streamlined by having a database of your assets on hand. Having your lifetime of accomplishments in front of you can help you see how combinations of your assets may help you provide a unique approach to an organization’s needs.

2. It backs up your résumé statements. You may feel more comfortable in either a phone or a face-to-face interview if you have data with you to support your responses to an interviewer’s questions. Being prepared to promptly reply in a confident manner will be a plus.

3. It helps you prepare for a job interview, promotional interview, performance appraisal or professional development session. The data compiled in your personal BoK help back up the what, why, when, where, who and how you developed the competency to achieve the results mentioned in your résumé or orally.

The personal BoK details the competency you have attained and enables you to better project what you want to achieve next.

4. It serves as a memory refresher during a job or promotional interview. To spontaneously recombine your assets to address an interviewer’s questions or comments shows your resourcefulness, preparedness and innovation.

Having your personal BoK in your hand relieves you of the anxiety of attempting to recall data in a tense situation. Also, sharing your personal BoK and explaining how it was prepared could be a unique and innovative way to substantiate your expertise to the interviewer.

5. It provides a baseline for planning your personal development. A compilation of objective evidence can support your bid for a promotion or transfer application, and serve as the basis for computing your worth to an organization.

By demonstrating the amount the organization has already invested in your personal development relative to the value you have created (return on investment), you have the foundation for substantiating further investment in your development.

The baseline provides a way to gain approval for further developmental activities, such as: education, training, internship, rotational assignment and special projects. It also allows you to measure your progress toward achieving developmental objectives.

Put it on paper

A spreadsheet to record the data works well and is easy to update. Here are suggestions for constructing the spreadsheet. The numbers represent the six vertical columns of the spreadsheet:

  1. Four categories of data can be listed: skills (list all work-oriented skills); education and training (list all formal education and all work-oriented training); knowledge (list all work-oriented knowledge); and experience (list all work-related experience).
  2. For each item listed, enter your purpose for earning the education or attaining the skill, knowledge or experience.
  3. For each listed item, enter the approximate month and year it was completed or attained.
  4. For each listed item, enter the place where the skill, education, knowledge and experience was attained.
  5. For each listed item, indicate the means by which the knowledge, experience and skill was attained.
  6. For each listed item, add optional commentary, such as: specific applicability of item to industry, type of job, level of position and who helped you.

It will become obvious that some items will need additional rows to differentiate subsets of the item. The point is to get as detailed as your memory or records provide. Ensure the entries will be intelligible to you at a future time, as well as to anyone else.

Unless you have maintained detailed records—or have a marvelous memory—the initial task of fleshing out the spreadsheet can take weeks, even months, to complete before you are satisfied you have captured your body of knowledge to date. Be sure to get a reminder posted on your calendar or your handheld device to periodically review and update your personal BoK.

I suggest developing a personal BoK to people who ask for my help in changing careers, finding the next best job or developing their potential in a current position. I have used the described process in my own growth and development, especially in reinventing myself to meet ever changing business needs.

Try it. It’s a lot of work initially but will be well worth the effort in the long run. You probably have more to sell than you think.

Russell T. Westcott, based in Old Saybrook, CT, consults on strategic planning, project management, quality management systems, work-life planning and career coaching. He is an ASQ fellow and a certified manager of quality/organizational excellence (CMQ/OE) and quality auditor. Westcott is editor of the CMQ/OE Handbook, third edition; co-editor of the Quality Improvement Handbook; and author of Simplified Project Management for the Quality Professional and Stepping Up to ISO 9004:2000. Westcott is an instructor of the ASQ CMQ/OE refresher course, and he serves on the Quality Management Division Advisory Committee and ASQ’s Thames Valley Section executive board.

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